Summary: Paul praised the God of mercy for healing Epaphroditus from illness. In Philippians 2:25-30 we learn "How God’s Mercy Works" as we see it in action in the lives of Paul, Epaphroditus and Philippian Christians.
A STUDY IN PHILIPPIANS
“How God’s Mercy Works”
There were 2 main reasons Paul wrote verses 25-30.
1. Paul’s first reason for writing verses 25-30 was to give the Philippian Christians EMOTIONAL COMFORT. In other words, he wanted to help them feel better.
Epaphroditus was a member of the Philippian church. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:18 that he was sent by the philippian church to bring to Paul gifts to help his ministry.
However, sometime after arriving to Rome where Paul was most likely under house arrest, Epaphroditus got sick. So sick in fact, that Paul tells us "27 For indeed he was sick almost unto death." - Phil 2:27 (NKJV)
Paul also says in verse "30 because for the work of Christ he came close to death." - Phil 2:30 (NKJV)
So whatever sickness it was that E had he came close to dying.
The Philippian Christians received word of Epaphroditus’s illness and were naturally distressed.
I remember a few years ago when we commissioned the team from our church to travel to Lousiana to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And I remember getting word that one of our members had cut herself badly on the leg. And I remember the concern I felt and the concern others felt over how she was doing. Was she going to be okay? Should she stay or come back for treatment? All kinds of questions go through your mind.
Now, imagine that one of our own on that trip had been in a hospital on a ventilator and the doctors had said, "It’s touch and go. We’re not sure they’re going to make it." What would that do to our church family? It would disturb us. Cause emotional discomfort. Bring us to our knees in prayer, begging God to spare their life.
Well, this is how the Philippian Christians felt. They were deeply concerned over Epaphroditus’ illness and whether or not he would live.
So, Paul wrote this section to give them a reason to rejoice in God’s mercy and restore their faith in God’s love and power.
Because, as Paul recounts in verse 27 "...God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also..." - Phil 2:27 (NKJV)
In other words, God healed Epaphroditus and spared his life. God gave E more time on this earth.
And the Paul and Philppians breathed a sigh of relief!!! Paul wanted them to know Epaphroditus was well again and that his healing was the result of one thing: God’s mercy.
If you had been in the Paul’s shoes, or the Philippian Christians shoes, or even Epaphroditus’ shoes, what would you have been thinking?
I know some people would have been asking, "Where is God in all of this?"
My friend is sick, about to die. Is God going to help? Does He notice? Does He even care?
Let me ask you this...Would God have been less merciful if He had let E die?
As it turned out God let him live. But what if He hadn’t? What if Paul’s worst fears had been realized and his friend E died?
Would that mean that God is not in fact merciful? But rather something else, perhaps even evil, to let this death occur?
I ask that question as to why God said no to my own request for God to spare my Pastor’s life.
My pastor, 47 years old, a wife 3 young kids. I prayed specifically for God to give Bobby 15 more years. It’s the prayer of Hezekiah from the Old Testament.
Isaiah 38 tells the experience of King Hezekiah how God spared his life and gave him 15 more years.
Is God less merciful or even unmerciful because he gave Hezekiah 15 more years but did not give my Pastor one more day?
In our text Paul is celebrating God’s mercy. Tonight, we’re wrestling with God’s mercy.
This same Paul, who right here is celebrating God’s mercy in sparing E’s life, speaks about God’s mercy in Romans 9
"14 What can we say—that God is unfair? That’s unthinkable! 15 For example, God said to Moses, “I will be kind to anyone I want to. I will be merciful to anyone I want to.” 16 Therefore, God’s choice does not depend on a person’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For example, Scripture says to Pharaoh, “I put you here for this reason: to demonstrate my power through you and to spread my name throughout the earth.” 18 Therefore, if God wants to be kind to anyone, he will be. If he wants to make someone stubborn, he will. 19 You may ask me, “Why does God still find fault with anyone? Who can resist whatever God wants to do?” 20 Who do you think you are to talk back to God like that? Can an object that was made say to its maker, “Why did you make me like this?” 21 A potter has the right to do whatever he wants with his clay. He can make something for a special occasion or something for everyday use from the same lump of clay. 22 If God wants to demonstrate his anger and reveal his power, he can do it. But can’t he be extremely patient with people who are objects of his anger because they are headed for destruction? 23 Can’t God also reveal the riches of his glory to people who are objects of his mercy and who he had already prepared for glory? 24 This is what God did for us whom he called—whether we are Jews or not." - Romans 9:14-24 (GW)Paul essentially answers the question about God’s mercy by saying, "You have no right to ask that question of God?"Paul doesn’t answer the question the way we want him to. When I ask that question I’m looking for an explanation but all Paul gives is a rebuke. He says, "Who do you think you are? You’re the clay. God is the king, the potter, the creator and maker. Doesn’t He have the right to do whatever he wants with you or those you love?"So what am I left with? I’m left to struggle with understanding God’s motives and actions. I’m left with having to really put aside all of my assumptions about God.And instead of settle for God as I want Him to be I am forced to search for the God who is. Not the God whom I’ve made in my image but the God who made me in His image. I’m left to learn in new and fresh ways who God really is and what He’s really like.